After all of the time-travelling shenanigans of 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Apocalypse is the supposed final part of a trilogy that began with Matthew Vaughn’s fantastic X-Men: First Class. With Xavier’s mutants facing their biggest threat yet, is Apocalypse a grandstanding close to this trilogy or a damp whimper of a finale? Let’s find out.
Continuing with the younger elements of the multi-movie X-world, the threat of the day is that of Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac). An ancient being who is the first ever mutant and someone who seeks to erase the world and start from scratch, to tackle this behemoth it’s down to Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) to bring together a crew of established names and some who are new to Xavier’s School for the Gifted. In amongst the returning faces are the likes of Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and Havoc (Lucas Till), whilst the newbies (at least in this timeframe) are youngsters such as Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan) and Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee). But whilst Charles has his allies, so too does Apocalypse as he brings in Magneto (Michael Fassbender), Angel (Ben Hardy), Storm (Alexandra Shipp) and Pyslocke (Oliva Munn) as his Four Horseman to assist him in decimating the world as we know it.
In terms of scope and scale, X-Men: Apocalypse can be heralded as a triumph, delivering gigantic set piece after set piece, each of which look phenomenal in their exquisite grandeur. Bar one wonky mental battle between Charles and Apocalypse late on, they all work wonderfully in what they do. Similarly, each and every character who appears on the screen, be they a hero or a villain, look stunning and as if they have been plucked straight from the page of a comic book. Away from the aesthetics of the film, though, there are a few problems for this latest X-adventure.
As is seemingly common with the X-Men movie-verse, the timeframe here seems all kinds of skewed. Apocalypse takes place ten years after the events of Days of Future Past – the film slaps us around the face with this fact at several moments – yet none of our crew seem any older and the world that they inhabit doesn’t feel like a decade further on from what we saw in the last film. Plus, Evan Peters’ Quicksilver still looks about 15 years old! Still, we can let that particular point slide, for Quicksilver, as in Days of Future Past, steals the show when allowed to. If you were wowed by his moment to shine in DoFP then be prepared to have that topped here, for his reintroduction to the main X-Men team is a sequence that is up there with the very best cinematic set pieces in recent memory.
Alongside Quicksilver being one of the film’s shining lights, so too is Fassbender’s Magneto. When we first pick things up, we find Magneto living a new life with a wife and family. Seeing his descent into becoming one of Apocalypse’s henchman is the strongest arc of the movie, and it’s likewise the most heartbreaking. Other highlights also include newcomers Angel and Nightcrawler, although Tye Sheridan’s Scott Summers, aka Cyclops-in-waiting, is the absolute pick of the bunch where the youngsters are concerned. Delivering a teen X-Men team and a teen Cyclops could’ve played ridiculously on the big screen, but Sheridan’s stature and performance mark him out as an inspired piece of casting. If he’s to lead Xavier’s mutants forward into the future, that’s perfectly fine with us. Additionally, Olivia Munn’s Psylocke is one of the franchise’s biggest baddasses when she gets the chance to slice her way through the action, even if her final scene is a little anticlimactic.
On the other side of the coin, for all her want and effort, Sophie Turner as Jean Grey just feels not quite there. Her accent is iffy at times, her performance often wooden, and she is unfortunately one of the weaker parts of X-Men: Apocalypse. Similarly, Alexandra Shipp’s Storm is a bit of a letdown, with Shipp another who seems to stumble through her delivery due to some accent issues whilst also dealing with being very much a background player for the majority of the film. And without giving too much away, some may find a couple of the movie’s final twists to not sit well with them or to happen just a little too soon in the grand scheme of things. We’ll leave those points there, though, before we give too much away.
X-Men: Apocalypse is certainly one that is a little tricky to fully evaluate. As a supposed film critic, the film has some hefty flaws and problems that simply cannot be ignored, particularly when it comes to timeframes and blatant plot holes, yet the comic book fan in us hugely enjoyed Singer’s latest X-effort for a whole variety of reasons. At times, comic book films need to be larger than life, they need to tackle huge event arcs, and that is where this effort succeeds. Apocalypse himself may be a mixed bag during the second arc lag that the film stutters through, but his star shines brightly during the final act and serves as a worthy opponent for our heroes to come together to tackle, which in term helps the X-Men feel very much like their comic book counterparts.
When all is said and done, Apocalypse certainly has its issues, but it is undeniably a fun and engaging comic book movie that is only second to X-Men: First Class in how well it actually brings the comic book X-Men world to the big screen, complete with a whole plethora of Easter eggs for eagle-eyed fans to keep a look out for. X2 may be a much better picture, but in terms of painting a comic book onto the screen, Apocalypse has the edge. There may be liberties taken at times and there may be some things that will irk both fans of the cinematic franchise and of the comic books, but X-Men: Apocalypse is the very definition, for better or worse, of what an X-Men comic book movie should be.
X-MEN: APOCALYPSE / CERT: 12A / DIRECTOR: BRYAN SINGER / SCREENPLAY: SIMON KINBERG / STARRING: JAMES MCAVOY, MICHAEL FASSBENDER, OSCAR ISAAC, JENNIFER LAWRENCE, NICHOLAS HOULT, EVAN PETERS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Expected Rating: 6 out of 10